Court battle shapes up over Nortel pensions
Published Saturday, February 27, 2010 11:35AM EST
A legal battle will unfold this week in a Toronto courtroom over the offer being made by Nortel to settle up with some of its former workers.
The agreement package is aimed at pensioners; those on Long Term Disability (LTD) and those who were let go before June 30, 2009 without any severance pay.
On Wednesday an Ontario court judge will hear arguments from anyone opposed to the deal. There won't be any vote by the thousands potentially affected by this deal. Lawyers and representatives of employee groups have agreed to the deal.
Connie Walsh of Ottawa was involved with the early formation of a group for LTD workers. She tells CTV News that "those who negotiated this deal and approved it did not do the LTD people any favours, other than to motivate us take some action. "
This week Walsh and several other LTD people hired a Toronto law firm, Rochon Genova LLP, to go to court and ask that the LTD people be allowed to launch a class action lawsuit that will focus on the handling of the Health and Welfare Trust, the source of LTD benefits and administration.
If the deal is approved by the court those on the receiving end of benefits give up most of their rights to sue. Walsh says "we don't want to cry to the court, oh poor us, but clearly those people least able to look after themsevles (the LTD workers) are getting the worst deal. "
Under the agreement LTD workers get all of their benefits until the end of this year. However many of them they face decades of living with no benefits and little chance of getting a job.
The court-appointed law firm , Koskie Minskie, contends the chance of a successful lawsuit is slim, and would take years. Walsh says, "I believe the person who votes with their pocketbook and that is Rochon". The law firm which specializes in class actions only gets paid if a lawsuit is successful
Those who support the $57-million deal say it gives everyone a clear indication of where they stand and gives them time and resources to try and convince government to change the rules and put employee at the top of the creditor list.
The NDP has promised that one of their first items of business when the House of Commons resumes this week is to push their private members' bill that would give the workers more protection.